The Spinner
175 Pages

The Spinner's Book of Fiction


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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Spinner's Book o f Fiction, by Various
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it , give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
Title: The Spinner's Book of Fiction
Author: Various
Release Date: January 11, 2007 [EBook #20343]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Chuck Greif and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
From a Painting by E. Almond Withrow
Published in behalf of The Spinners' Benefit Fund Ina D. Coolbrith First Beneficiary ——— Copyright, 1907 byPAULELDERANDCOMPANY
A CALIFORNIAN by Geraldine Bonner
GIDEON'SKNOCK by Mary Halleck Foote
A LOSTSTORY by Frank Norris
HANTU by Henry Milner Rideout
MISS. JUNO by Charles Warren Stoddard
LOVEANDADVERTISING by Richard Walton Tully
THETEWANA by Herman Whitaker
"The devil sit in Filon's eyes and laugh—laugh—some time he go away like a man at a window, but he come again. M'siu, helive there!" from a painting by E. Almond Withrow
"She was always very sweet, our Concha, but there never was a time when you could take a liberty with her." from a painting by Lillie V. O'Ryan
"The petal of a plum blossom." from a painting by Albertine Randall Wheelan
"Not twenty feet from me Miller sat upright in his canoe as if petrified." from a painting by Merle Johnson
"All their ways lead to death." from a painting by Maynard Dixon
"Dawn was flooding the east, and still the boy lurched and floundered on and on." from a painting by Gordon Ross
Wherefore this book of fiction by Californian writers? And why its appeal otherwise than that of obvious esthetic and literary qualities? They who read what follows will know.
The fund, which the sale of this book is purposed to aid, was planned by The Spinners soon after the eighteenth of April, 1906, and was started with two hundred dollars from their treasury. To this, Mrs. Gertrude Atherton added another two hundred dollars. Several women's clubs and private individuals also generously responded, so that now there is a thousand dollars to the credit of the fund. A bond has been bought and the interest from it will be paid to Ina D. Coolbrith, the poet, and first chosen beneficiary of the fund. The Spinners feel assured that this book will meet with such a ready sale as to make possible the purchase of several bonds, and so render the accruing interest a steady source of aid to Miss. Coolbrith.
All who have read and fallen under the charm of her "Songs from the Golden Gate," or felt the beauty and tenderness of the verses "When the Grass Shall Cover Me," will, without question, unite in making "assurance doubly sure" to such end.
From the days of the oldOverland Monthly,when she worked side by side with Bret Harte and Charles Warren Stoddard, to the present moment, Miss. Coolbrith's name has formed a part of the literary history of San Francisco.
The eighteenth of April, 1906, and the night which followed it, left her bereft of all literary, and other, treasures; but her poem bearing the refrain, "Lost city of my love and my desire," rings with the old genius, and expresses the feeling of many made desolate by the destruction of the city which held their most cherished memories.
When Miss. Coolbrith shall no longer need to be a beneficiary of the fund, it is intended that it shall serve to aid some other writer, artist or musician whose fortunes are at the ebb.
To the writers, artists and publishers who have so heartily and generously made this book possible, The Spinners return unmeasured thanks.
San Francisco, June 22, 1907.
ISTER TERESA had wept bitterly for two days. The vanity for which she did penance whenever her madonna loveliness, consummated by the white robe and veil of her novitiate, tempted her to one of the little mirrors in the pupil's dormitory, was powerless to check the blighting flow. There had been moments when she had argued that her vanity had its rights, for had it not played its part in weaning her from the world?—that wicked world of San Francisco, whose very breath, accompanying her family on their monthly visits to Benicia, made her cross herself and pray that all good girls whom fate had stranded there should find the peace and shelter of Saint Catherine of Siena. It was true that before Sister Dominica toiled up Rincon Hill on that wonderful day—here her sobs became so violent that Sister María Sal, praying beside her with a face as swollen as her own, gave her a sharp poke in the ribs, and she pressed her hands to her mouth lest she be marched away. But her thoughts flowed on; she could pray no more. Sister Dominica, with her romantic history and holy life, her halo of fame in the young country, and her unconquerable beauty—she had never seen such eyelashes, never, never!—whatshe thinking of at such a was time? She had never believed that such divine radiance could emanate from any mortal; never had dreamed that beauty and grace could be so enhanced by a white robe and a black veil——Oh, well! Her mind was in a rebellious mood; it had been in leash too long. And what of it for once in a way? No ball dress she had ever seen in the gay disreputable little city—where the good citizens hung the bad for want of law—was half as becoming as the habit of the Dominican nun, and if it played a part in weaning frivolous girls from the world, so much more to the credit of Rome. God knew she had never regretted her flight up the bays, and even had it not been for the perfidy of—she had forgotten his name; that at least was dead!—she would have realized her vocation the moment Sister Dominica sounded the call. When the famous nun, with that passionate humility all her own, had implored her to renounce the world, protested that her vocation was written in her face—she really looked like a juvenile mater dolorosa, particularly when she rolled up her eyes—eloquently demanded what alternative that hideous embryo of a city could give her—that rude and noisy city that looked as if it had been tossed together in a night after one of its periodical fires, where the ill-made sidewalks tripped the unwary foot, or the winter mud was like a swamp, where the alarm bell summoned the Vigilance Committee day and night to protect or avenge, where a coarse and impertinent set of adventurers stared at and followed an inoffensive nun who only left the holy calm of the convent at the command of the Bishop to rescue brands from the burning; then had Teresa, sick with the tragedy of youth, an enchanting vision of secluded paths, where nuns—in white —walked with downcast eyes and folded hands; of the daily ecstasy of prayer in the convent chapel misty with incense.
And in some inscrutable way Sister Dominica during that long conversation, while Mrs. Grace and her other daughters dispensed egg-nog in the parlor—it was New Year's Day—had made the young girl a part of her very self, until Teresa indulged the fancy that without and within she was a replica of that Concha Argüello of California's springtime; won her heart so completely that she would have followed her not only into the comfortable and incomparably situated convent of the saint of Siena, but barefooted into that wilderness of Soledad where the Indians still prayed for their lost "Beata." It was just eight months tonight since she had taken her
first vows, and she had been honestly aware that there was no very clear line of demarcation in her fervent young mind between her love of Sister Dominica and her love of God. Tonight, almost prostrate before the coffin of the dead nun, she knew that so far at least all the real passion of her youth had flowed in an undeflected tide about the feet of that remote and exquisite being whose personal charm alone had made a convent possible in the chaos that followed the discovery of gold. All the novices, many of the older nuns, the pupils invariably, worshipped Sister Dominica; whose saintliness without austerity never chilled them, but whose tragic story and the impression she made of already dwelling in a heaven of her own, notwithstanding her sweet and consistent humanity, placed her on a pinnacle where any display of affection would have been unseemly. Only once, after the beautiful ceremony of taking the white veil was over, and Teresa's senses were faint from incense and hunger, ecstasy and a new and exquisite terror, Sister Dominica had led her to her cell and kissing her lightly on the brow, exclaimed that she had never been happier in a conquest for the Church against the vileness of the world. Then she had dropped the conventional speech of her calling, and said with an expression that made her look so young, so curiously virginal, that the novice had held her breath: "Remember that here there is nothing to interrupt the life of the imagination, nothing to change its course, like the thousand conflicting currents that batter memory and character to pieces in the world. In this monotonous round of duty and prayer the mind is free, the heart remains ever young, the soul unspotted; so that when——" She had paused, hesitated a moment, then abruptly left the room, and Teresa had wept a torrent in her disappointment that this first of California's heroines—whose place in history and romance was assured—had not broken her reserve and told her all that story of many versions. She had begged Sister María Sal—the sister of Luis Argüello's first wife—to tell it her, but the old nun had reproved her sharply for sinful curiosity and upon one occasion boxed her ears. But tonight she might be in a softer mood, and Teresa resolved that when the last rites were over she would make her talk of Concha Argüello.
A few moments later she was lifted to her feet by a shaking but still powerful arm.
"Come!" whispered Sister María. "It is time to prepare. The others have gone. It is singular that the oldest and the youngest should have loved her best. Ay! Dios de mi alma! I never thought that Concha Argüello would die. Grow old she never did, in spite of the faded husk. We will look at her once more."
The dead nun in her coffin lay in the little parlor where she had turned so many wavering souls from fleeting to eternal joys. Her features, wasted during years of delicate health, seemed to regain something of their youth in the soft light of the candles. Or was it the long black eyelashes that hid the hollows beneath the eyes?—or the faint mysterious almost mocking smile? Had the spirit in its eternal youth paused in its flight to stamp a last sharp impress upon the prostrate clay? Never had she looked so virginal, and that had been one of the most arresting qualities of her always remarkable appearance; but there was something more—Teresa held her breath. Somehow, dead and in her coffin, she looked less saintly than in life; although as pure and sweet, there was less of heavenly peace on those marble features than of some impassioned human hope. Teresa excitedly
whispered her unruly thoughts to Sister María, but instead of the expected reproof the old nun lifted her shoulders.
"Perhaps," she said. "Who knows?"
It was Christmas eve and all the inmates of the convent paused in their sorrow to rejoice in the happy portent of the death and burial of one whom they loyally believed to be no less entitled to beatification than Catherine herself. Her miracles may not have been of the irreducible protoplastic order, but they had been miracles to the practical Californian mind, notwithstanding, and worthy of the attention of consistory and Pope. Moreover, this was the season when all the vivacity and gaiety of her youth had revived, and she made merry, not only for the children left at the convent by their nomadic parents, but for all the children of the town, whatever the faith of their somewhat anxious elders.
An hour after sundown they carried the bier on which her coffin rested into the chapel. It was a solemn procession that none, taking part, was likely to forget, and stirred the young hearts at least with an ecstatic desire for a life as saintly as this that hardly had needed the crown of death.
Following the bier was the cross-bearer, holding the emblem so high it was half lost in the shadows. Behind her were the young scholars dressed in black, then the novices in their white robes and veils, carrying lighted tapers to symbolize the eternal radiance that awaited the pure in spirit. The nuns finished the procession that wound its way slowly through the long ill-lighted corridors, chanting the litany of the dead. From the chapel, at first almost inaudible, but waxing louder every moment, came the same solemn monotonous chant; for the Bishop and his assistants were already at the altar....
Teresa, from the organ loft, looked eagerly down upon the beautiful scene, in spite of the exaltation that filled her: her artistic sense was the one individuality she possessed. The chapel was aglow with the soft radiance of many wax candles. They stood in high candelabra against the somber drapery on the walls, and there were at least a hundred about the coffin on its high catafalque before the altar; the Argüellos were as prodigal as of old. About the catafalque was an immense mound of roses from the garden of the convent, and palms and pampas from the ranch of Santiago Argüello in the south. The black-robed scholars knelt on one side of the dead, the novices on the other, the relatives and friends behind. But art had perfected itself in the gallery above the lower end of the chapel. This also was draped with black which seemed to absorb, then shed forth again the mystic brilliance of the candles; and kneeling, well apart, were the nuns in their ivory white robes and black veils, their banded softened features as composed and peaceful as if their own reward had come.
The Bishop and the priests read the Requiem Mass, the little organ pealed theDe Profundisif inspired; and when the imperious triumphant music as of Handel followed, Teresa's fresh young soprano seemed, to her excited imagination, to soar to the gates of heaven itself. When she looked down again the lights were dim in the incense, her senses swam in the pungent odor of spices and gum. The Bishop was walking about the catafalque casting holy water with a brush against the coffin above. He walked about a second time swinging the heavy copper censer, then pronounced the
Requiescat in pace, "dismissing," as we find inscribed in the convent records, "a tired soul out of all the storms of life into the divine tranquillity of death."
The bier was again shouldered, the procession reformed, and marched, still with lighted tapers and chanting softly, out into the cemetery of the convent. It was a magnificent, clear night and as mild as spring. Below the steep hill the little town of Benicia celebrated the eve of Christmas with lights and noise. Beyond, the water sparkled like running silver under the wide beams of the moon poised just above the peak of Monte Diablo, the old volcano that towered high above this romantic and beautiful country of water and tule lands, steep hillsides and canons, rocky bluffs overhanging the straits. In spite of the faint discords that rose from the town and the slow tolling of the convent bell, it was a scene of lofty and primeval grandeur, a fit setting for the last earthly scene of a woman whose lines had been cast in the wilderness, but yet had found the calm and the strength and the peace of the old mountain, with its dead and buried fires.
The grave closed, the mourners returned to the convent, but not in order. At the door Teresa felt her arm taken possession of by a strong hand with which she had had more than one disconcerting encounter.
"Let us walk," said Sister María Sal in her harsh but strong old voice. "I have permission. I must talk of Concha tonight or I should burst. It is not for nothing one keeps silent for years and years. I at least am still human. And you loved her the best and have spoiled your pretty face with weeping. You must not do that again, for the young love a pretty nun and will follow her into the one true life on earth far sooner than an ugly old phiz like mine."
Sister María, indeed, retained not an index of the beauty with which tradition accredited her youth. She was a stout unwieldy old woman with a very red face covered half over with black down, and in the bright moonlight Teresa could see the three long hairs that stood out straight from a mole above her mouth and scratched the girls when she kissed them. Tonight her nose was swollen and her eyes looked like appleseeds. Teresa hastily composed her features and registered a vow that in her old age she would look like Sister Dominica, not like that. She had heard that Concha, too, had been frivolous in her youth, and had not she herself a tragic bit of a story? True, her youthful love-tides had turned betimes from the grave beside the Mission Dolores to the lovely nun and the God of both, and she had heard that Doña Concha had proved her fidelity to a wonderful Russian throughout many years before she took the veil. Perhaps—who knew?—her more conformable pupil might have restored the worthless to her heart before he was knifed in the full light of day on Montgomery Street by one from whom he had won more than thousands the night before; perhaps have consoled herself with another less eccentric, had not Sister Dominica sought her at the right moment and removed her from the temptations of the world. Well, never mind, she could at least be a good nun and an amiable instructor of youth, and if she never looked like a living saint she would grow soberer and nobler with the years and take care that she grew not stout and red.
For a time Sister María did not speak, but walked rapidly and heavily up and down the path, dragging her companion with her and staring out at the beauty of the night. But suddenly she slackened her pace and burst into
"Ay yi! Ay de mi! To think that it is nearly half a century—forty-two years to be precise—for will it not be 1858 in one more week?—since Rezánov sailed out through what Frémont has called 'The Golden Gate'! And forty-one in March since he died—not from the fall of a horse, as Sir George Simpson (who had not much regard for the truth anyway, for he gave a false picture of our Concha), and even Doctor Langsdorff, who should have known better, wrote it, but worn out, worn out, after terrible hardships, and a fever that devoured him inch by inch. And he was so handsome when he left us! Dios de mi alma! never have I seen a man like that. If I had I should not be here now, perhaps, so it is as well. But never was I even engaged, and when permission came from Madrid for the marriage of my sister Rafaella with Luis Argüello—he was an officer and could not marry without a special license from the King, and through some strange oversight he was six long years getting it—; well, I lived with them and took care of the children until Rafaella—Ay yi! what a good wife she made him, for he 'toed the mark,' as the Americans say—; well, she died, and one of those days he married another; for will not men be men? And Luis was a good man in spite of all, a fine loyal clever man, who deserves the finest monument in the cemetery of the Mission Dolores—as they call it now. The Americans have no respect for anything and will not say San Francisco de Assisi, for it is too long and they have time for nothing but the gold. Were it not a sin, how I should hate them, for they have stolen our country from us—but no, I will not; and, to be sure, if Rezánov had lived he would have had it first, so what difference? Luis, at least, was spared. He died in 1830—and was the first Governor of Alta California after Mexico threw off the yoke of Spain. He had power in full measure and went before these upstart conquerors came to humble the rest of us into the dust. Peace to his ashes—but perhaps you care nothing for this dear brother of my youth, never heard of him before—such a giddy thing you were; although at the last earthquake the point of his monument flew straight into the side of the church and struck there, so you may have heard the talk before they put it back in its place. It is of Sister Dominica you think, but I think not only of her but of those old days—Ay, Dios de mi! Who remembers that time but a few old women like myself?
"Concha's father, Don José Dario Argüello, was Commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco then; and there was nothing else to call San Francisco but the Mission. Down at Yerba Buena, where the Americans flaunt themselves, there was but a Battery that could not give even a dance. But we had dances at the Presidio; day and night the guitar tinkled and the fiddles scraped; for what did we know of care, or old age, or convents or death? I was many years younger than Rafaella and did not go to the grand balls, but to the little dances, yes, many and many. When the Russians came —it was in 1806—I saw them every day, and one night danced with Rezánov himself. He was so gay—ay de mi! I remember he swung me quite off my feet and made as if he would throw me in the air. I was angry that he should treat me like a baby, and then he begged me so humbly to forgive him, although his eyes laughed, that of course I did. He had come down from Sitka to try and arrange for a treaty with the Spanish government that the poor men in the employ of the Russian-American Company might have breadstuffs to eat and not die of scurvy, nor toil through the long winter with no flesh on their bones. He brought a cargo with him to exchange for our corn and flour meanwhile. We had never seen any one so handsome